2012-03-30 / Top Stories

PPA Goes To Court To Stop Closure

By Howard Schwach

In February, PPA parents went to Tweed Courthouse, the DOE headquarters, to rally for the school. In February, PPA parents went to Tweed Courthouse, the DOE headquarters, to rally for the school. A Rockaway charter school slated for closure in June by the Department of Education, won a temporary restraining order last week, halting — for the moment — the city’s plans to close the school for poor performance.

And, according to the school principal, in what is called a highly-unusual move, money supplied by the DOE as part of the school’s allocation is being used to fund the lawsuit and pay the high-priced Albany law firm that represents the school.

“We have a right to defend ourselves,” school Principal Erika Walla told The Wave. “We are paying for our attorneys by using school funding and it was approved by both our board and our parents.”

A spokesperson for the city’s Law Department suggested that the idea to use public money to sue the city is not a novel idea.

“Charter schools have some discretion for how they use their funds, although the purpose of public funding for charter schools is to enhance education, not engage in litigation,” a law department spokesperson told The Wave on Tuesday. “The DOE has taken steps to close Peninsula Prep because it has repeatedly failed to meet the performance standards set forth in its charter.”

Walla disagrees, preferring to believe that small charter schools are being tar- geted by the DOE because “it’s not to the city’s benefit to have to manage individual charters when there are so many multi-school charter networks involved with the city.”

What are her school’s chances of beating city hall?

“We believe that we have a 50-50 chance in staying alive,” Walla added.

We met our charter goals until the state changed the game by raising the cut scores. They should not have counted that against us.”

City education officials announced in January that they would not renew the charter of Peninsula Preparatory Charter School, an elementary school that has received C’s on the city’s progress report for the last four years.

While the school’s administrators and parents point to a myriad of signs of progress, and insist their school is being held to a double standard, the city’s Education Department has consistently dhered to its position that the school has not met the goals outlined in its charter with the DOE.

The court hearing on the temporary restraining order will be held on Thursday, April 26.

Calls to both the Department of Education for comment on the legality of using public money to sue the city went unreturned.

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